Good leadership to determine quality of African Union

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- The quality and credibility of leaders in various countries would determine the strength of the African Union (AU) whose Constitutive Act is scheduled to take effect on 26 May, says an official from a Dakar-based development non-governmental organisation.
The constitution of the proposed AU becomes effective one month after Nigeria became the 36th country to submit the instruments of ratification to the secretariat of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
Speaking to PANA in Dakar, the West African director of World Vision International, Daniel Ole Shani, said the envisaged union would only be solid if leaders respect the clauses of that act, which was first adopted in July 2000 in Lome, Togo.
Shani, whose non-political Christian development organisation interacts with politicians at various levels in Chad, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone noted that for the time being, there is still a "crisis of unfulfilled expectations" as far as democracy is concerned in the continent.
"If the quality of leaders who form this union is of such a nature that they themselves are not providing quality leadership in their own nations, it is unlikely the institution will be solid," he said, insisting he was speaking in his personal capacity as an African.
The Kenyan national whose NGO runs poverty alleviation projects in 25 African states noted that such uncommitted leaders had prevented the implementation of many other vital documents they signed.
These include the universal declaration on human rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Children, said Ole Shani, whose NGO sponsors the well-being and schooling of 130,000 children in West Africa.
He deplored the tendency by certain African leaders to amend national constitutions so as to remain in power.
If these violated the basic rights of their electorate, such leaders could not be expected to abide by international agreements, including the AU clauses.
Asked about his expectations from the envisaged AU, Ole Shani said it should focus more attention towards the search for solutions to the continent's long-standing problems.
It should also take practical steps to bring about the much-aspired African Economic Union whose existence has remained theoretical.
"I say this because the sub-regional economic unions we have right now have not been able to implement all the policies they formulated at the beginning," said Ole Shani, who was World Vision's country director in Mauritania before moving to Dakar as regional director.
Tackling the ever rising problem of refugees and displaced persons due to the intensifying civil wars needs to be placed among the AU's priorities.
"Four decades after most African countries obtained political independence, there has been a constant increase in the number of Africans who are denied the right to remain and retire in their villages or home towns, enjoy a decent living or raise their families and educate their children.
" Liberia and Sierra Leone which fall under the World Vision regional office in Dakar, are among the leading sources of refugees in West Africa.
According to Ole Shani, there is an urgent need to take measures to reduce the death toll of millions of African children who get killed by simple preventable disease each year.
African children constitute a majority among the 11 million children who die worldwide each year due to preventable diseases, malnutrition or lack of adequate food.
"While it is fine to proclaim the formation of the African Union, at the same time we need to consider investing funds at the basic village level and communities to improve health infrastructure and food security so as to reduce such deaths," he told PANA.
Nonetheless, he added, the creation of the African Union will be intellectually and emotionally refreshing to most Africans.
But the replacement of the OAU should be more oriented towards "solving the problems that have maintained us poor for the past decades," he added.

06 may 2001 15:02:00

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